12/08/2009

Addicted to Plastic



"Identified in England in 1937, Biston Betularia, or ‘peppered moth’ was the first creature to evolve its camouflage to match the pollution caused by coal factories. The “cryptic moth” was evolution to human pollution."

Cryptic Moth is a TV production that does "Science without the Lecture", exposing the positive solutions available to combat environmental decay. They have released a documentary called "Addicted to Plastic", directed by Ian Connacher about the pro's and con's of plastic in all of it's incarnations.

The film charts the rise of the use plastics following their accelerated development in manufacture occasioned by the second world war, the need to find an outlet for this capacity in the post war years, and the environmental consequences caused by our indiscriminate use of plastics.

In the film, I learned that:

a) The US is the major producer and consumer of plastics
b) The US only effectively recycles 5% of it's plastic consumption
c) Denmark effectively recycles 90% of it's plastic waste by sending it back to the original manufacturer to deal with.
d) Most plastic destined for recycling goes to landfill, as most manufactured items and most packaging are made from various types of plastic that cannot be separated.
e) In certain areas of the Pacific Ocean, plastic outnumbers plankton 10 to 1 by volume
f) The plastic that enters the marine food chain and ultimately our stomachs, acts as a sponge for toxins, containing up to 1 million times the concentrations found in the surrounding ocean
g) In India, 40% of plastic is recycled by necessity rather than by legislation
h) A company in Texas take raw unsorted plastic waste and transform it into indestructible railway sleepers
i) In India, plastic bags are collected from the street, handwashed and turned into shopping bags.
j) NEC have produced a mobile phone made from biodgradable plastic that dissolves if buried.
k) A scientist in Frankfurt has developed a process that turns plastic back into petroleum
l) A scientist in Dublin has developed a process using bacteria that feeds on petroleum waste products to produce biodegradable plastics
m) An Australian company produces edible bioplastic containers for fast food


I could go on, but just watch the film. It's not necessarily a film to take a date to, as it features amongst other things the contents of seabirds stomachs, but it does illustrate the problem, and suggest possible solutions. It is clear that the problem is with most manufacturers, and their indifference to the environmental consequences of their pursuit of a fast buck, so we should take issue with them, their product designers, their production engineers and their marketing departments. Apple have smartened up their act after Greenpeace gave their "cool" products a very uncool environmental rating. Interface don't just manufacture carpets, they now recycle them as well.

Meanwhile, just stop using plastic bags, and don't buy anything that uses more than 2 different materials in the packaging.

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